Walter Edward Westbrook kimberley and kent artist: calm, beauty and pure direct vision
Walter Edward Westbrook in Kimberley Gallery

Walter Edward Westbrook the artist, famous for his watercolour landscapes, has the ability to capture mood and atmosphere, whether painting a portrait, still life or his signature landscapes. There is a calm serenity about his work - a tranquillity that is seldom found. From the subtle colours of South Africa’s Northern Cape and Namibian desert landscape to the richer palette of Europe, Westbrook's work continues to capture the imagination and inspire.

Born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1921, Walter Westbrook took up art at a young age. He studied art under Walter Battiss in Pretoria, and held his first one-man show in Pretoria in 1947. Though not recognised as an official war artist, Westbrook continued to paint throughout his war years in North Africa and Italy, and was taken under the wing of Italian artist, Francisco Caprioli in Italy. A selection of his works from the war period can be viewed at the South African National Museum of Military History.

Westbrook became a fulltime artist in 1970 - painting landscapes of the Northern Cape, Kalahari Desert and Namibia. Walter Westbrook, it can be claimed, put the arid Northern Cape on the art world map.

 

His work spans the rich creative and culturally diverse art period of the 1940s to 1990s in South Africa. In the late 1990s he moved to the UK, adopting the Kent countryside and English Channel as his new subject matter. He has also rediscovered his passion for portraits, figures and still lives. Now, well into his 80’s, Westbrook can be found painting in his studio most days, or out in the countryside with his pencils and sketch book.

Walter Westbrook’s contemporaries in the South African art world include Alexis Preller, Gregoire Boonzaaier, Alexander Podlashuc, Mike Edwards, Gerard de Leeuw, Walter Battiss, Alex Rose-Innis, Bettie Cillier-Barnard, Edouard Villa, Eben van der Merwe, Father Frans Claerhout, Iris and Stefan Ampenberger … and many more.

 

Walter Edward Westbrook painting in the South African desert

 

 

Walter Edward Westbrook painting in Italy

Walter Westbrook was a member of the Bloemfontein group, founded in the 1960s by Dr FP Scott. Twenty four works (two from each of the twelve members of the Bloemfontein Group), referred to as the F.P. Scott Trust, can be viewed at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfonteain. The collection includes works by Walter Westbrook, Marianne and Alexander Podlashuc, Father Frans Claerhout, Stefan and Iris Ampenberger and Mike Edwards. This collection, which has a predominantly regional flavour, is a manifestation not only to the Group’s commitment and contribution to art in the Free State, but also of the meaningful contribution these artists made to the establishment of Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein.

 

Talking about his art, Walter Westbrook said:

”The things that motivate me are the everyday experiences we react to, like space, atmosphere and the dramatic play of nature, or its calm and peaceful moods. All these play an important part in the experience and interpretation of the landscape.

I do not want to create a new and unreal world that I do not recognise, feel or see. To be part of this amazing world is in itself a privilege. The variety and ever-changing moods never cease to inspire and motivate me. It is the world I know and want to record as I see and experience it: a world of incomparable beauty, totally unpredictable and exciting - new every day.

I enjoy the moods and the changes throughout the day, together with the reactions, habits and responses of people in different situations. All this inspires me. To say something about everyday things that are often taken for granted: things that are part of everyday conversation – everyday observation. So why not paint it?

I have no desire to paint the unreal – things that are not understood – just to be different or “with it”, or to invent a world that does not exist. I need to express and interpret what I feel and experience – to be personally involved with the subject. Not copying, but expressing it as I see and feel it.

At one time or other, all of us stand in awe and marvel at the unexpected dramatic display spread before us. It is the driving force that triggers us to record the moment that could be lost forever.”

 

Walter Westbrook in his studio

 

"The impression which has remained with me, is one of calm, beauty and pure direct vision." Alexis Preller – wrote about Westbrook’s art.